Using the Black Man as the Schlemiel: In Defense of Dexter Manley

By the time the morning rolls around, there will have been thousands of think pieces dedicated to Dexter Manley’s Game On remarks regarding Black Quarterbacks. A few of my brothers brought it to my attention via an Instagram post that was followed by a litany of insults to Manley, his intelligence, even his choice of suit.

Many of the media outlets said the other hosts were embarrassed. But that’s not what I got. As most reports included, it wasn’t the first time Manley made an off the cuff remark. He apologized then and he apologized for his recent remarks. Saying, “I say some things that I don’t think about sometimes.”

I didn’t know anything about Manley’s background save his football career. But the producers of the show did. In fact, a producers job is almost like that of an investigator’s; they learn everything thing possible about every guest that comes on the show. So why would these producers bring Manley on?

It is this writer’s opinion that in many situations in general, and this one in particular, Black people, Manley in this case, was hauled in to be the Schlemiel. That’s right, and we’re not talking Laverne & Shirley — we’re talking the Jewish Folkloric character — the character that’s easily fooled or duped; the patsy, the sucker.

I don’t mean to give anyone any Twitter shine, it’s just a screen shot taken at the moment of this writing. Thousands will be posted in between now and the time that this writing is complete. ESPN will be running the clip every hour on the hour. Yup, Manley will be the first maligned Black man this year.

And what will they be saying? Sure, they’ll talk about what Manley said, there will be jokes, they too will show Twitter posts. But you know what else they’ll talk about — the various run-ins with the law of Black Quarterbacks; the most famous being, of course, Michael Vick.

They’ll talk about the mobile quarterback and make comparisons to the pro-set quarterback, you know, the ones that drop back in the pocket and, even if a hole opens up or even if they been through all their progressions, ends the play by either throwing the ball out or folding like a cheap suit under the pressure.

We are looking at one of the most dominating performances by a Quarterback, Black or otherwise, in Cam Newton; leading his Panthers from 7–8–1 last season to an extraordinary 15–1 this year — the best record in the NFL.

And we’ll be talking about that — with the backdrop of the racism that’s existed in the sport of football since the days of Marlin Briscoe.

All the while, Dexter Manley will be burned at the stake of public opinion with many people knowing nothing of Manley, who he is or what his contribution to football was.

Nope. None of that will be discussed.

Ask John Elway about Dexter Manley, he remembers him quite well. Dexter Manley was part of the reason the Broncos only scored 10 points in their 42–10 routing in Super Bowl XXII where the Redskins scored 35 points in the second quarter.

Manley was affectionately called the “Secretary of Defense,” and for eight years he was the backbone of the Redskins defense.

That’s on the surface. But anyone who knows anything about sports knows that athletes are whisked through school, loopholes are made, helpers provided, so long as players take the court, field, etc. For us, hearing an athlete is illiterate is no surprise.

And that was my first thought when I saw the Dexter Manley clip. Then I jumped into Google.

Of course, right now the movie Concussion is in theaters which, if you’re reading something about football you know, is about CTE — the damage that football players incur due to constant head traumas via concussions.

There was no studies on this thing when I played football as a youngster. When I found out that all those times I saw stars was me having a concussion, I tried (and failed) to count how many concussions I suffered.

Dexter Manley is a part of a class-action suit against the NFL as I type that posits that the NFL knew and said nothing about the possible damages that playing football can produce. One can only imagine how many concussions he racked up over the years. Perhaps those concussions are responsible for the brain cyst Manley had to have removed in a 10 1/2 hour surgery. His behavior fits the bill of someone suffering from CTE.

Manley was busted for substance abuse once in the mid 80s. In ‘91 he tested positive for illegal substances again and was forced to retire. From then on, Manley’s behavior has been erratic. He’s been in and out of prison for drug abuse and is known for speaking off the cuff.

And Manley already started at a deficit.

“Having to repeat the second grade was the beginning of a life of frustration. I got 19 F’s, so they put me in a special-ed class. Well, that’s the professional name for it. Kids called it the dummy class. Most of the other kids were physically handicapped. My defects were that I couldn’t read, write or spell. I couldn’t understand why I was there. I felt like I wasn’t normal. Other kids would call us retards. In fact, I was called so many negative things that after a while I began to believe them. And I began to hate myself.”

None of that will be discussed.

Let’s be real — what producers want — what they desire more than anything is drama. Drama is what drives modern conversation. Drama is what makes Reality TV the go to programming for Networks. And it’s quite evident that that is what the producers wanted bringing Dexter Manley on the show.

It was just two years ago when Manley was in hot water for calling Troy Aikman “queer,” and I’m not sure how often he’s a guest on WUSA, but I would suspect that having him there is like hosting Bruce Banner in an anger management class — at some point he’s going to pop.

And I’m not buying the wincing co-host line nor am I fooled into believing that mainstream media finds his words offensive. If anything, the cohosts had to stop themselves from laughing. And why laughter?

I would argue that Manley’s ill-conceived joke brought subdued laughter because his words spoke into their thoughts. Surely it’s no secret that Black men are criminalized in America. And surely the stereotypes of Black Quarterbacks persist.

Even the tone of the media and how they address the situation reads like what was said is not to be taken serious. Here’s one example:

Manley had an interesting theory on why black quarterbacks like to run the ball.

Or this one:

today on CBS station WUSA…he had some interesting thoughts on black quarterbacks.

What’s “interesting” is while Dexter Manley receives scorn that will surely bring up old childhood memories, the Executive Producer of Game On gets to celebrate the fact that his show has gone viral.

Manley like Ben Carson before him, is being used — not by some Manchurian Candidate type entity, no. They both, in their ignorance, have given voice to the thoughts of many whites who would not dare to utter the words spewed by either of these Black men. In Manley’s case, he fits the Why Does The Devil Keep Our People Illiterate Mold. He’s being used as a slave and a tool.

What most people either fail to realize or care to consider is that everything that they see and hear on radio, television, or film, did not appear there by accident. Producers work long hours assembling these panels, constantly looking for the perfect match.

Our attacking Manley will only make it easier for the NFL to dismiss him and any claims he has as, as CTI will have it, his conditions continue to get worst.

So I say SHAME on the PRODUCERS for bringing Dexter Manley on that show in the first place. I won’t be calling my brother any names. I won’t deride him for what he said. No, I hold the bloodsuckers of the poor accountable for bringing in an already vulnerable man on to their show, having their exposure boosted due to his ignorance, while they sit back — silent.

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